are nfl contracts guaranteed
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Are NFL Contracts Guaranteed?

The financial aspects of player contracts are a topic of great interest and speculation. One common question that often arises, ” are NFL contracts guaranteed ? ” This article will delve into the intricacies of NFL contracts, exploring how players are paid, notable considerations within contracts, instances when a team or player can void a contract, and other crucial factors.

Key Takeaways:

  • NFL contracts are not fully guaranteed; rather, the guaranteed money is typically in the form of signing bonuses and certain roster bonuses.
  • Players’ salaries are generally subject to performance and roster placement, with only a portion of the contract being guaranteed.
  • Understanding the nuances of guaranteed money, salary cap implications, and contract structures is essential for both players and fans alike.

How Are NFL Players Paid ?


NFL players receive their compensation through a combination of base salary along with signing, performance, and roster bonuses, While base salaries are a significant component, signing bonuses provide players with guaranteed money upfront, offering financial security even if the player is cut or traded.

What Money is Actually Guaranteed ?

  • Signing Bonus: This is a lump sum payment paid upfront when the contract is signed.expand_more It is usually the largest guaranteed portion of an NFL contract and is typically non-refundable even if the player is cut.
  • Base Salary Guarantees: Sometimes, a portion of a player’s base salary for certain seasons can be guaranteed.expand_more This means the player gets paid that amount regardless of whether they are still on the team.
  • Other Guarantees: Performance-based guarantees, injury guarantees, and roster bonuses can also exist in contracts, but they are less common.

When Can a Team or Player Can Void a Contract ?


While NFL contracts provide a degree of financial security for players, there are instances when a team can void a contract or a player can opt out. Common scenarios include:

  1. Breach of Contract: If a player violates the terms of the contract, such as through off-field misconduct, a team may have grounds to void the agreement.
  2. Injury Clauses: Contracts often include injury protection for teams, allowing them to release an injured player without incurring the full financial obligation.
  3. Performance Metrics: Some contracts have performance-related clauses that, if not met, could lead to the restructuring or termination of the agreement.

Other Important Factors to Consider

  • Salary Cap Implications: The NFL operates under a salary cap, limiting the total amount teams can spend on player salaries. Contract structures play a crucial role in managing this cap effectively.
  • Negotiation and Extensions: Players and teams often negotiate contract extensions to ensure continuity and address changing circumstances, such as a player’s improved performance or a team’s evolving needs.

Popular NFL Contract Disputes

Several instances of NFL players having major issues with contractual money have happened throughout league history, each with unique circumstances. 

Here are two prominent examples:

1. Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys (2019):

  • Situation: Running back Ezekiel Elliott, drafted fourth overall in 2016, signed a rookie contract with the Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. As per the rookie wage scale, Elliott’s salary wasn’t particularly high compared to veteran players.
  • Issue: In 2019, Elliott held out of training camp, seeking a new contract with higher compensation commensurate with his performance and impact on the team. He argued the rookie wage scale undervalued him.
  • Outcome: After missing six games, Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million extension with the Cowboys,making him the highest-paid running back in the league at the time. While he got a significant raise, critics argued the rookie wage scale worked as intended, preventing teams from overspending on young players.

2. Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers (2018):

  • Situation: Running back Le’Veon Bell, a two-time All-Pro, had his rookie contract expire in 2017. Unable to agree on a new long-term deal, Bell sat out the entire 2018 season under the franchise tag, sacrificing millions in salary.
  • Issue: Bell believed he deserved a contract reflecting his value, similar to other top running backs, but the Steelers weren’t willing to meet his demands. He also criticized the franchise tag system, which allows teams to retain players for one year at a predetermined salary but restricts their negotiating power.
  • Outcome: Bell eventually signed with the New York Jets in 2019 but never recaptured his previous form.His decision to sit out a year significantly impacted his earning potential and highlighted the complex dynamics of player contracts and team valuations.
Le’Veon Bell even went on to play for the Ravens before being released shortly after.

The Devil Is In the Details

Understanding the dynamics of NFL contracts is crucial for both players and fans. While contracts are not fully guaranteed, the presence of signing bonuses and other guaranteed elements provides players with financial security. Notable considerations, including incentives, performance bonuses, and contract structures, contribute to the complexity of these agreements. By exploring these nuances, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the financial intricacies within the world of professional football.

Are NFL Contracts Guaranteed ?

Frequently Asked Questions

No, not all NFL contracts are fully guaranteed. The guaranteed portion usually includes signing bonuses, guaranteed base salaries, and specific roster bonuses.

In the event of a release or trade, the guaranteed money, such as signing bonuses, remains with the player. However, future salary guarantees may be voided.

Yes, players and teams can renegotiate contracts during the season to address changing circumstances, such as exceptional performance or unforeseen challenges.

Incentives and performance bonuses are additional payments tied to specific achievements, such as reaching a certain number of touchdowns or making the Pro Bowl. They provide players with opportunities to increase their earnings based on performance.